Dressing for our predictably unpredictable weather

biker jacket01The weather is being decidedly unpredictable, to say the least – one minute it’s (sort of) warm and sunny, the next minute chilly and/or raining.  One of my clients recently told me how much she struggles with this transition – especially as warmer temperatures often mean revealing unwanted pounds gained over the winter .

So how do you dress for our predictably unpredictable weather?  ‘Smart’ layering is the key.  Here are some pointers to get you started:

  • Don’t just add layers willy-nilly.  Layer carefully, ending up with no more than three.  Go beyond that and you risk adding unwanted bulk.  Start with, for example, a basic white t-shirt.  Add a chambray shirt or a lightweight spring knit. Top it off with a fluid sleeveless blazer, a tailored jacket or a trench or duster coat.  This bamboo print duster coat from Topshop would look great paired with a simple white t-shirt and black jeans, for example.  Likewise, this sleeveless trench from Mint Velvet at John Lewis, in on-trend khaki.
  • A leather biker jacket can be your best friend.  Throw it on over almost anything to add a bit of an edge (and warmth).  Mine’s the ‘Bleeker’ by All Saints, and it’s actually the cheapest item in my wardrobe based on cost-per-wear.
  • If you worry about your bottom half, keep your jacket length to fingertip length or longer.  This will help to elongate your frame and hide a multitude of sins.  A long white shirt is also great for this – here’s a simple but chic longline white shirt from COS (pair with skinnies), and a drop shoulder fluid shirt from M&S, this time in pale pink (another on-trend colour for spring/summer).
  • Add a scarf to keep off the chill !  But think beyond woolly winter versions – try an oversized linen scarf or a bit of silk instead – it’s surprisingly warm.  The one in the photo below is by StephieAnn, who makes luxurious silk lingerie in beautiful prints.

In Stephie scarfFinally, ditch the dark tights and knee high boots !  They just look wrong now that we are in May.  Switch to sheer nude tights (Wolford’s ultrafine Naked 8’s are my go to choice) or prepare your legs to bare if you dare (body brush, exfoliate and moisturise should be your mantra…).

However unpredictable it may be, enjoy the weather !


Workwear: heels hit the headlines

ES re heels rowThe debate around dressing for work hit the headlines again last week, with high heels taking centre stage.

PricewaterhouseCoopers came under fire for sending a temporary receptionist home for not wearing shoes with the required ‘two to four inch heel’.  The debate rumbled on in the press and on social media, culminating with Julia Roberts leading a ‘barefoot rebellion’ at the Cannes Film Festival (which, incidentally, has refused entry to women not wearing heels in previous years).

heelsIt’s not an issue of ‘fashion’, rather of gender equality. Why should women be told to follow such anarchic rules? And I don’t mean that men should be made to wear ties (as I read in one newspaper); ties don’t have the same physical impact on the wearer. High heels can cause a myriad of back and foot problems.   The receptionist in question was wearing shoes that were perfectly adequate for an office environment. And it also begs the question, why can’t women can be seen as smart and professional wearing flat shoes?

JimmyChoosThe key to footwear success in the office is finding your ‘ideal heel’, and I believe every woman has one (it may be flat).  It’s determined by your height, balance, and whether you can walk in them.  Yes, high heels can boost confidence, but this is rapidly undermined if you are struggling to walk, needing to sit at regular intervals or look like you are about to fall over at any minute.  Thankfully there are so many heel styles and height options these days – from loafers to ballet pumps, kitten heels to wedges, block heels to stilettos– there’s an option that will work for almost any woman in almost any work environment (see my previous blog on wearable heels).

A parliamentary petition calling for a law making it illegal to require women to wear heels at work has now reached over 100,000 signatures, so this debate is not going to go away any time soon.  I’d love to hear your views.


A trio of spa treats

I never seem to relax.  I’m not very good at it.  So when the Spa at the Grand asked me to review their Trio of Treats treatment, I jumped at the chance.  Three treatments in one and seventy minutes of ‘enforced’ relaxation !

swing_chairThe Trio of Treats is great if you can’t decide which spa treatment to choose, or don’t have time to indulge in more than one full treatment on a particular day.  It gives you three shorter (but no less effective) versions of the Spa’s most popular treatments: the back massage, express facial and body scrub – so you are pampered from top to toe.  The package also includes full use of the spa facilities, including the luxurious relaxation lounge with its fantastic day bed and seventies-style swinging chairs.

Jessica, my therapist, asked me what oils I would prefer, to tailor the treatments specifically for me.  I chose the relaxing ylang ylang oil for my back massage, and the ‘Illuminate’ products for my facial. All of the products are from the Natural Spa Factory, and contain no nasty chemicals or parabens.

geranium and grapefruit scrubI’m usually wary of back massages at spas, as they don’t usually even begin to address all my knots and tension, but Jessica was ruthless – she really got to work on them, using a sensitive massage oil.  My face was then cleansed, exfoliated and massaged, along with my decollete, and finished with a toner, serum and moisturiser.  The finishing body scrub began with a full body brush – invigorating and relaxing in equal measure – and great as it’s so hard to reach all areas yourself.  She then polished my skin with the Geranium and Grapefruit sea salt scrub, which smelled delicious – my skin has never felt so buffed and smooth.

cakeTo round off the experience, I was treated to coffee and a trio of beautiful mini patisserie as I relaxed in the café area.  It was altogether blissful ! Go on, treat yourself…

Trio of Treats is available at the Spa at The Grand, Brighton, and costs £88 for 70 minutes (Monday to Friday) or £100 on Saturday and Sunday.  To book email spa@grandbrighton.co.uk or call 01273 224300.

spa slippers

Keeping it ‘Semple’

MaggieSemple_permission to use for blogLast week I was invited to attend one of Maggie Semple’s ‘Keep it Semple’ events at her gorgeous atelier. A diverse group of professional women who share a love of beautiful clothes chatted over drinks and nibbles in a gorgeous 17th century building hidden away in Covent Garden.  Maggie founded the brand in 2010, to coincide with the publication of her book Women, Fashion, Stories which documents the treasured items of six high profile women.  She produces both ready to wear and made to measure investment dresses for professional women.

We all know that clothes tell a story – particularly when they are bespoke and handmade as Maggie’s dresses are.  We had a tour of the workshop – all the dresses are made by skilled seamstresses on the premises – and then had a lively discussion about ‘Our Digital Selves’ and what that means to us.

Maggie has invited me back in May to hear more about the brand, the beautiful dresses and how they are made. Watch this space….

Photo kindly provided by Maggie Semple Ltd.